Stress can come from any situation or thought that makes you feel frustrated, angry, or anxious. What is stressful to one person is not necessarily stressful to another.
Stress is a normal part of life. In small quantities, stress is good — it can motivate you and help you be more productive. However, too much stress, or a strong response to stress, is harmful. It can set you up for general poor health as well as specific physical or psychological illnesses like infection, heart disease, or depression. Persistent and unrelenting stress often leads to anxiety and unhealthy behaviors like overeating and abuse of alcohol or drugs.
Emotional states like grief or depression and health conditions like an overactive thyroid, low blood sugar, or heart attack can also cause stress.
Anxiety is often accompanied by physical symptoms, including:
- Twitching or trembling
- Muscle tension, headaches
- Dry mouth, difficulty swallowing
- Abdominal pain (may be the only symptom of stress, especially in a child)
Certain drugs, both recreational and medicinal, can lead to symptoms of anxiety due to either side effects or withdrawal from the drug. Such drugs include caffeine, alcohol, nicotine, cold remedies, decongestants, bronchodilators for asthma, tricyclic antidepressants, cocaine, amphetamines, diet pills, ADHD medications, and thyroid medications.
A poor diet can also contribute to stress or anxiety — for example, low levels of vitamin B12. Performance anxiety is related to specific situations, like taking a test or making a presentation in public. Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a stress disorder that develops after a traumatic event like war, physical or sexual assault, or a natural disaster.
In very rare cases, a tumor of the adrenal gland (pheochromocytoma) may be the cause of anxiety. This happens because of an overproduction of hormones responsible for the feelings and symptoms of anxiety.